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Leasing ATP – Heritage Lost?

In its recent mini-budget, the NSW Government announced its plans to privatise the Australian Technology Park (ATP) – 13.9 hectares of industrial space within cooee of the city centre reports Benjamin Ball in the South Sydney Herald of December 2008.
Leasing ATP – Heritage Lost?

Geoff Turnbull and Guido Gouverneur with examples of Victorian-era steam technology at ATP Photo: Andrew Collis

Like Sydney’s dams, the state coffers are in deep need of liquidity, but in light of the unprecedented public purchases of private debt around the world, it is perhaps time to question governments’ privatisation reflexes. The global financial crisis is much more than monetary. It is a crisis of values.

The history of the ATP is a lesson in how society’s values have changed. In the 1880s original thought and knowledge were valued for their inherit worth, and Eveleigh was an important centre of steam technology transfer.

Universities established the ATP to promote innovation and excellence in the fields of science and technology. In more recent decades, since knowledge has often been forced to justify itself in economic terms, the site has become a publicly-owned business park and, now, it will soon be a privately-owned investment.

ATP will be a business park. There is a valid question about what happens to the University’s involvement on the site and if the innovation activities which were initiated when it was a technology park will continue long-term under a more general business park model.

Geoff Turnbull of REDWatch, and Guido Gouverneur of Wrought Artworks (a blacksmithing business at ATP) are saddened to see examples of rare Victorian-era steam technology left out to rust in the grounds of the park.

“Other cities would surely treasure this stuff,” says Mr Gouverneur. “It can still be restored.”

“If this is how government is treating protected heritage equipment under its control what will it do to stop a private operator scrapping the remaining ATP heritage equipment after privatisation?” Mr Turnbull asked.

Local Councillor, John McInerney, is concerned that ATP will be sold without defined development restrictions, putting the area’s heritage value at risk. Regardless of whether ATP is sold to Sydney University or to other private hands, McInerney wants an agreed-upon master plan for development.

Sydney City Council has objected to the current draft plan on the grounds that it makes a mockery of the heritage buildings. The privatisation itself has not come into question.

Source: South Sydney Herald December 2008